Scene4 Magazine: Claudine Jones
Claudine Jones
Gender Bent

I've been gleefully following the recent Superior Court decision in regard to the overturning of California's notorious Proposition 8—in my opinion, & thankfully the Court's, a piece of unmitigated gainsaying in the face of common sense.  Reading  hundreds of pages of transcripts,  even while somewhat repetitive, still gives one a fulsome sense of the stunning absence of any fucking hook upon which  to hang the proponent's hat.

Take, for example, the existence of such niceties as all-male or all-female theatre troupes—at the Globe in Shakespeare's time, or at our local parks with Women's Will. Does anybody think that the plays necessarily suffer for this? I would declare far more peril awaits at the prospect of unbridled scenery chewing, no matter the sex of the teeth.

Being in a play, let's say without recording of any kind, no pictures except for archive, means the actor goes away with his or her own memory of the event. I'm supposing that outside the dressing room, the actor does not carry too much sense of how he or she looked, just the feeling of the character. 

Would the lasting effect on actors (as opposed to actresses) of seeing a play be a question of the visual or is it more tactile?  A pornographic image for instance, could actually be presented to a man as a conscious turn-on or it could just be a synaptic evolutionary development beyond his control. Being inside the box—no crying, no tenderness, no weakness—this is some powerful shit that guys could channel into their roles.

So…if a woman is trained to see her female self through a man's eyes, this would mean that women playing men would be accessing  their roles in some diametrically opposite way from men playing women, but for reasons we'll mostly never fathom. The interior map for the exterior surface would have to be derived from some separate sources, hypothetically unknowable.

I showed up at an audition for Joe Orton's What the Butler Saw some years ago, while I was still 'reading' young enough to go for the role of the doctor's wife, Mrs. Prentice. When I read for her, though, I didn't get that delicious feeling of rightness that occurs when you feel just this close to being cast on the spot. Plus there was a saucy blonde British ringer also reading and I had to admit that she was darn good. At some moment, sitting out in the house, I was off in my head flipping through the play while others on stage did their sides, and it hit me. I knew Joe—there was no reason on God's green earth I couldn't read for Dr. Rance. Having a penis wouldn't be an issue & this wasn't   O Calcutta.  

The rest is history, as they say. With a brown wool three-piece suit & size 9 wing-tips, a spanking fedora atop my hairpiece, a sleazy mustache & a leather briefcase, I could practically feel my precious little nuts. I progressed, if you can call it that, as the run went on: adding fine touches—cracking my knuckles, grimacing & sucking my teeth, stroking the mustache. My walk became more & more a pattern of swagger, rising up on the balls of the feet, hands in pockets, loose-limbed. Scary, in fact. Poor Mrs. Prentice, who was definitely a game little trouper, was just about physically the same profile as me, but at the end of the day, having appended my lexicon of appropriate male characteristics onto Dr. Rance, she was no match.  In fact, late in the play & in the run, I experienced what I expect is a rare event for a woman. I had long since gotten to the point with the good Dr. that I thought I could trust him with the reins, but one night in particular he actually taught me something. About rape.

I apologize to all men reading this, if it offends, but knowing Joe Orton, gotta say offense is pretty close to the surface anyway. My point is only that, given the license to perform in this fashion, I do not censor myself. Rance had just hidden a small gun in his trouser pocket, and his next move was Stage Left to the sofa, where Mrs. Prentice lay supine in nothing but a negligee and a full length fur coat. What was he to do? Usually, he approached her with a naughty gleam in his eye & pinioned her, one hand supported by the couch, the other fumbling with his zipper.  By tacit agreement, this approach had become by degrees increasingly more fun and a bit reckless (it is a comedy, after all), until that night I found myself undoing my fly on the run, as it were, and more or less tackling her. The alarmed look she gave me was momentary, and of course we were always to be 'interrupted' by the arrival of someone else, so no harm done. What scared me, personally, is not the fact that I might have pushed the envelope in the course of running a scene, or endangered my scene partner. No. It was that I enjoyed the power over a woman.

Now, my question is: how much fucking fun is this power over marriage?


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©2010 Claudine Jones
©2010 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Like an orthopedic soprano, Actor/Singer/Dancer Claudine Jones has worked steadily in Bay Area joints for a number of decades. With her co-conspirator Jaz Bonhooley, she also has developed unique sound designs for local venues. She's also a Senior Writer and columnist for Scene4.
For more of her commentary and articles, check the Archives


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September 2010

Scene4 Magazine - Arts and Media

September 2010

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